Thursday, June 4, 2009

Emotionally dumb

Yesterday I tweeted about a Harvard Business School study that found Twitter has a gender bias; men have more followers and both women and men are more likely to follow men, even though there are actually more women registered on Twitter. The people who did the study framed this as surprising, since other social networks (e.g. Facebook) are slanted the other way, with women having larger networks. It doesn't surprise me, however, since Twitter seems closer to blogging than a social network, and the blogosphere strikes me as being dominated by men. But that's a tangent for another day; I bring this up because my friend commented that "maybe twitter's 'chaste compactness which precludes psychological analysis' (benjamin) makes it boring to (high-EQ) shorties?"

I'm sure I've heard the term "EQ" before but I didn't feel immediately familiar with it. It means, of course, intuitively, something like emotional IQ or emotional intelligence (thus failing as an acronym on the basic level). The first Google result for "high EQ" is a list of signs of high and low EQ. A sampling:

A person with high EQ:
  • Does not diguise [sic] thoughts as feelings by the use of "I feel like...." and "I feel that...." sentences.
  • Is able to read non-verbal communication.
  • Balances feelings with reason, logic, and reality.
  • Acts out of desire, not because of duty, guilt, force or obligation.
  • Is independent, self-reliant and morally autonomous.
  • Is intrinsically motivated.
  • Is not motivated by power, wealth, status, fame, or approval.
  • Is emotionally resilient.
  • Tends to feel optimistic, but is also realistic, and can feel pessimistic at times.
  • Does not internalize failure.
OK, so, I basically feel like all these things apply to me, with the exception of the first one. Pretty sure I do that. I mean, "I feel like I do that." Now for the signs of low EQ:
  • Doesn't take responsibilities for his feelings; but blames you or others for them.
  • Can't put together three word sentences starting with "I feel..."
  • Can't tell you why she feels the way she does, or can't do it without blaming someone else.
  • Attacks, blames, commands, criticizes, interrupts, invalidates, lectures, advises and judges you and others.
  • Tries to analyze you, for example when you express your feelings.
  • Often begins sentences with "I think you..."
  • Sends "you messages" disgused [sic] as "I feel messages" For example, "I feel like you ...."
  • Lays guilt trips on you.
  • Withholds information about or lies about his feelings. (Emotional dishonesty)
  • Carries grudges; is unforgiving.
  • Is uncomfortable to be around.
  • Is insensitive to your feelings.
  • Has no empathy, no compassion.
  • Frequently feels inadequate, disappointed, resentful, bitter or victimized.
  • Is rigid, inflexible; needs rules and structure to feel secure.
  • Is not emotionally available; offers little chance of emotional intimacy.
  • Is insecure and defensive and finds it hard to admit mistakes, express remorse, or apologize sincerely.
  • Uses his intellect to judge and criticize others without realizing he is feeling superior, judgmental, critical, and without awareness of how his actions impact others' feelings.
  • Is a poor listener. Interrupts. Invalidates. Misses the emotions being communicated. Focusses [sic] on "facts" rather than feelings.
First of all, I just want to point out how hilariously biased this is. I mean, a list of signs of high IQ and low IQ would at least attempt to use neutral language. It wouldn't be like, "A person with low IQ can't even do basic math. A person with low IQ spills milk all over the floor and just laughs while you have to clean it up." Etc. Clearly, "Steve Hein" of "The EQ Institute" doesn't think some people have low EQ and some people have high EQ and that's how it is (presumably the case with IQ); people with high EQ are just better. And probably, people with low EQ could raise it if they'd just grow up. (Notice how "interrupts" and "invalidates" appear twice ... and the use of "you": "judges you and others" rather than just "others." Ha! Because of course, whoever is reading this is one of the superior high-EQ individuals, right? I'm guessing this guy has a book that's marketed at disgruntled wives.)

Aside from that, and aside from the fact that I'd like to believe I have a high "emotional intelligence," I think a fair number of the bad signs apply to me too. Not all of them, but I do hate apologizing and rarely feel remorse; I'm extremely critical and analytical (see this blog); I carry grudges; I like structure; I've been told I'm not all that emotionally available. But I'm not insecure, I don't lie about my feelings, I don't tend to feel inadequate or victimized, etc. And I have enough friends that I assume I'm not "uncomfortable to be around."

So my question is, is EQ really a thing? If it were a thing, could it change or is it something you're born with? Is it just a way for sensitive, emotional types to feel superior to less emotional/more rational people and/or people who lack social skills? Is it possible to acknowledge the existence of "emotional intelligence" without exhibiting a huge bias toward high EQ? Can low EQ be treated more like a disability, less like a fault? And perhaps most importantly, DO I HAVE A LOW EQ?????


  1. I remember a book _Emotional Intelligence_ from the 90s and think of it as the seminal EQ book.

    "Feels like" there is no reason for EQ not to be a real thing, although a precise definition seems hard to pin down. From time to time I will hear about a person who "doesn't understand their own emotions" or "doesn't know how they feel" and maybe that is related.

  2. That reminds of a line from "Walkin' in Memphis": "Do I really feel the way I feel?" I hate that line. Yes, Marc Cohn, you probably do!!! Talk about emotionally retarded.

  3. Yeah enough about EQ, let's move onto the flipside: Emotional Retardation, aka ER

  4. The list of traits reminds me most of the list of progressive/conservative traits that sites like were talking about for awhile, and similarly biased: it turns out that progressives are much better people than conservatives. Just as I guess people who understand their feelings and the feelings of others are happier, better people.

    Well, why not? Still, it seems like the measuring tool is biased to acknowledge certain results.

    Maybe EQ should be called: people who understand the principles of modern European therapeutic culture?

    Which I believe in, to some extent.

    Remember right brain/left brain thinking?

    Oh, one other downside: recent uses of the Measure Everything Machine have determined that compared to Objective Standards, we're all Really Seriously Fucked Up More Than We Know.

  5. Or just betterness quotient? i.e. my wife has a high BQ, but I'm totally ER :(

  6. One other thing occurred to me. What if you were to take both lists and change the language so that each of the positive characteristics was made to sound negative and vice versa? It would be really interesting to see someone try that. "Carries grudges" for instance as "doesn't let others take advantage and remembers when they try."

  7. Mark: What if you were to take both lists and change the language so that each of the positive characteristics was made to sound negative and vice versa? It would be really interesting to see someone try that. "Carries grudges" for instance as "doesn't let others take advantage and remembers when they try."

    YES******That is exactly what I'm talking about, can we flip/deconstruct this at all to get to the heart of how much of it is bullshit ...

    e.g. "Doesn't weasel out of arguments by hiding behind 'I feel' statements."

    "Challenges others to question themselves and leave their comfort zones."

    "Approaches emotions from an analytical, intellectual standpoint to improve depth of understanding."

    YES. This is good.

  8. the 140-character limit made me end up sounding like i was saying that only people with low EQs tweet. Whereas I meant to say that maybe the ladies in general don't like to tweet as much because it's harder to shoehorn the ol' complex emotions they're known to favor into 140 characters.

    That was an attempt at an edgy sort of compliment. i'm sensing it kinda fell flat.

    i was sort of itching to use that benjamin quote, that's how it all got started. typical (male) low-EQ gambit, trying to sound smart!

    I admit to having a fairly vague concept of what EQ means. It's definitely only two characters, which is nice for twitter.

    And Elisa, you've got it, don't worry!

  9. No, I understood your meaning! At least I think I did ... because I can read nonverbal communication, awww yeah. EQ in the house.